Driver Runs Down Narcotics Officer in the Village

A Westchester man turned his vehicle into a weapon on Friday night, steering it onto a sidewalk in Greenwich Village and ramming into a plainclothes police officer who, with his partner, was trying to arrest three drug suspects, the authorities said.

The impact propelled the officer backward into an iron fence, ripping it from its concrete moorings, the police said. Then the driver, identified as Joseph R. Dellutri, 59, backed up the 2007 Dodge minivan and accelerated again as the injured officer took cover behind a tree, according to the police.

In all the chaos, two drug buyers, who were knocked aside by the minivan, as well as the dealer who had been selling to them, fled, the police said.

Mr. Dellutri was in custody on Saturday, awaiting arraignment on a series of criminal charges, and the injured officer was undergoing treatment for minor injuries at Bellevue Hospital Center.

The attack, which took place shortly before midnight outside 73 Washington Place, may have involved settling an old score, investigators said. Two years ago, Mr. Dellutri had an encounter with the partner of the officer who was struck. Officials said records from that case were sealed.

Detectives from the Sixth Precinct were investigating whether the attack was prompted by “a beef against those cops” from the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, a law enforcement official said.

“That might be the motive; he may have had a grudge against these officers,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation was continuing.

“There is no doubt he knew they were cops; they had their shields out,” the official added. “He has made statements indicating that he knew these guys were cops.”

No one answered the telephone at Mr. Dellutri’s residence in Hartsdale, N.Y., on Saturday afternoon.

A portion of the black wrought-iron fence that had been knocked about four inches off its base stood about halfway down the block between Washington Square West and Avenue of the Americas, by the restaurant Blue Hill.

Officials said the two officers, working from a yellow taxi, had seen a drug transaction outside 73 Washington Place. One officer, who is 34 and has about nine years of experience on the force, approached the two buyers; the other officer, also 34 and with four years on the force, approached the seller. Just then, the police said, Mr. Dellutri appeared, holding a cellphone and apparently taping the arrest.

“He’s videotaping the stop, which is fine, no problem,” the official said. “It’s not a crime to videotape a police officer.”

But then Mr. Dellutri got increasingly close to the officers, to the point of interfering with their ability to carry out their duties, the official said.

“The officers kept telling him to step back,” said the official, who did not identify the officers by name. “They request that he give them the room to do their job. That got him upset.”

Mr. Dellutri got into his minivan, “mounted the sidewalk and runs the cop over,” the official said. “Then he backs up and tries to hit him again.”

The second officer ran over and grabbed his partner. Together they got into the taxicab and followed Mr. Dellutri, the police said. But after the officer who was struck said he was “in too much pain,” the men broke off the chase and drove to Bellevue, the official said.

As teams of uniformed officers arrived at the scene, Mr. Dellutri apparently circled around and returned to the location, where witnesses pointed out his car.

“The people that are there are saying, ‘That’s the car,’” the official said.

Mr. Dellutri drove off again, followed by the officers. In fleeing, he headed north and west, hitting an occupied car along the way, the police said. After getting stuck in traffic, he abandoned his vehicle. Officers ran after him and arrested him at West and Jane Streets, the official said.

The police official said the injured officer deserved praise for his restraint in not firing his weapon. The official added that the officer was “very fortunate” he was not more seriously injured.

Mujtaba Qasim, 19, a freshman at New York University, said he was in his fifth-floor apartment writing a paper when he heard yelling Friday night. He said he went to his window and saw two men leaning up against the iron fence, held there by a third man who he presumed was an undercover officer.

Mr. Qasim said a man who got out of a minivan approached the officer and tapped him on the shoulder. With that, he said, the officer threw the man to the ground. The man got up and, after a few minutes, returned to his vehicle, then drove it into the officer and the two men.

“He pulled forward, then pulled into reverse and then pulled over the curb and hit all three men while the cop was patting them down,” Mr. Qasim said. “It was amazing.”

Police officials disputed that account and said they did not believe the officer touched Mr. Dellutri.

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